Back in the days of braising weather, the routine would be that I did the meat braising before Emily arrived an hour or so before serving time. Then Emily prepped and made the side dish, while I made drinks for us to sip on while cooking. For the evening of lamb shanks 2.0, Emily came over to braise with me which left us about two hours with nothing to do while the lamb simmered away. Together with roommate Alex we decided to grab a few drinks at The Passenger, Alex and my favorite bar of all time and, conveniently enough, the bar that is closest to our apartment. We set the stove top to low, prayed that the apartment wouldn’t blow up while we were away, and made the early evening trek to the Passenger.
I took advantage of the light crowd and the early drinking hour and ordered a Corpse Reviver #2, a tart gin based drink with equal parts cointreau, lillet blanc, lemon juice and a dash of absinthe. After the first round of drinks, the three of us felt a little hungry so we asked for an order of beef jerky with our second round. I love gin and all but my heart belongs to whiskey so I asked for a manhattan made with Jefferson’s Rye. Beef jerky and a manhattan, a pairing after my own heart.
After two rounds, we called it quits and headed back to the apartment to finish making our meal. We were happy to find the apartment just as we left it, except it smelled even more aromatic from the braising lamb shanks. Alex and Emily got to work making stir-fried baby bok choy with shitake mushrooms while I made fried rice to soak up the sauce of the lamb shanks. Soon enough, we were ready to plow into our meals. Our efforts, both sober and not as sober, produced one of the best Sunday dinners of 2012 to date.
For Easter 2012, Emily and I decided to roast a leg of lamb. For a solid week I searched high and low for the perfect recipe, sending Emily close to a dozen from pancetta wrapped to mustard crusted. Nothing seemed quite right until I realized that what my heart and stomach really wanted was a simple and traditional preparation that would showcase the lamb itself. Finally, a few days before Easter I found the recipe I was looking for right on my bookshelf in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.
Rather than a plethora of herbs and spices, Keller calls for the lamb to be marinated in nothing more than canola oil, garlic, and rosemary. In order to ensure that the lamb is evenly flavored, the garlic cloves are inserted directly into the thickest parts of the lamb. Rosemary sprigs are then inserted strategically into the sirloin of the lamb and salt, pepper and canola oil are rubbed into it before putting the lamb into the oven. Since the preparation was so simple, I splurged on the leg of lamb by heading to Eastern Market, buying the last one in the case, and requesting that the butcher remove the fell (which gives lamb its gamy taste) and french the bone.
After an hour and 45 minutes in the oven, the lamb came out perfectly medium rare to rare. I let it rest for another 45 minutes while Emily and I finished preparing the rest of dinner, drinking some sparkling wine, welcoming guests, and munching on cheese, pate, and duck mousse. Easter is the greatest of holidays and celebrating it by breaking bread with my best pals makes it even more joyous.
The appetizing spread
It’s officially Spring now, but I still can’t get over what a mild winter we had here in D.C. I am not going to lie, I am kind of bitter about the lack of snow and, more importantly, snow days. I never knew how much I enjoyed snow days until they were taken away from me by global warming. Still, I like to think that I was able to make the most of any cold weather that came my way.
Back in February, it was finally chilly enough for Alex and I to get back to the business of braising. Earlier that week, I sent Alex an e-mail suggesting we make a braised lamb recipe she had found and sent me several weeks back. Alex and I both enjoy braised lamb shanks and Alex was particularly intrigued by this recipe which combined lamb shanks with red wine and finished with some chocolate. I’m usually wary of using chocolate in savory foods, but the blog Alex had sent me proclaimed it was the best thing this person had ever eaten so unless this was the most cruel joke in the history of mankind, the combination couldn’t be too bad. The more I thought about it the more I believed I would really really enjoy these lamb shanks so while shopping for ingredients at Safeway, decided to go all in and double the recipe so Alex and I could have some leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day.
Vikram Sunderam is the chef at Rasika, the best Indian restaurant in D.C. (and some may argue the best Indian restaurant in the U.S.). Reservations at Rasika are incredibly hard to come by, so hard in fact, I gave up trying awhile ago and don’t even remember the last time I ate there. Not being able to experience Chef Sunderam’s cooking nearly as often as I’d like, I came upon a happy surprise one day while browsing recipes at foodandwine.com. Turns out the good chef contributed a simplified recipe for Lamb Rogan Josh to the magazine.
I like to make this dish when I am craving a hearty curry. Although it takes a long time for the stew to come together, the work itself is not particularly hard. The end result never disappoints and I have always enjoyed the first bite when the spices hit my tongue and overwhelm my taste buds. The intense taste of the curry, turmeric, cayenne, and garam masala are lightened by the tomatoes and yogurt. The lamb comes out very tender and flavorful due simmering for nearly an hour with the curry and other spices. I look forward to testing out the other recipes Chef Sunderam submitted to Food & Wine and hope to return to Rasika in the near future.